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The Ancient World and Us: From Fear and Loathing to Enlightenment and Ethics

2019
University of Edinburgh

Lecture 1 - Introduction: murderous games

Monday 6 May 2019

This lecture introduces some of those moral and ethical dilemmas in studying the classical world, asking how we understand remote ancient cultures that have come to stand both for the pinnacle of "civilisation" and for the nadir of corruption and cruelty. Choosing the gladiatorial games as one case study, it takes aim at the sense of moral superiority that we so often display in the face of some of antiquity's worst "crimes".

Lecture 2 - Whiteness

Tuesday 7 May 2019

This lecture moves from the colour of ancient statues to the skin colour of the Greeks and Romans themselves. Why have these issues proved so inflammatory in the study of antiquity? Who is committed to a white vision of the ancient world, and why? It argues not that antiquity was a world before racism, but that its very different ideas about colour (skin and otherwise) can destabilise our own.

Lecture 3 - Lucretia and the politics of sexual violence

Thursday 9 May 2019

In ancient Rome political change was regularly tied to sexual violence (the Rape of the Sabines, the Rape of Lucretia, the murder of Virginia).

How do we make sense of this? The lecture argues that the Romans themselves discussed these (mythical) incidents much more subtly than we often give them credit for, and that the Rape of Lucretia in particular has for 2000 years raised important questions about power, responsibility and consent.

Lecture 4 - Us and them

Monday 27 May 2019

This lecture explores various forms of exclusion and inclusion in antiquity, from slave versus free to women versus men. Can we ever understand how that might have seemed "natural"? And what does it tell us about our own exclusions? Given the drastic disparities in power, wealth and influence that underpinned all ancient cultures, in what sense can they ever be seen as a model of inclusion and "toleration"?

Lecture 5 - Tyranny and democracy

Tuesday 28 May 2019

This lecture is about politics ancient and modern. What political inheritance do we imagine we can trace back to the ancient world? On what does our admiration for Athenian democracy rest, or our hatred of Roman autocrats?

Lecture 6 - Classical Civilisation?

Thursday 30 May 2019

This lecture concludes the series by facing head on the idea of "classical civilisation". How far has it always been a weapon of elite exclusivity? Or how far has it simultaneously acted to challenge elite power? And what is its future?

Contributor(s)
  • University of Edinburgh